France isolated against US ‘château’ imports

Famed for its wines labelled after a local château, France was isolated among EU partners on Monday over its insistence that US wines bearing the same distinction be kept out of the European market.

France isolated against US 'château' imports
Photo: Robert S. Donovan

"The European Commission wants to drop the château naming issue, which we oppose," French Agriculture Minister Stéphane le Foll said of European Union moves to do a deal with American producers.

"We are in difficult talks," Le Foll said, adding that other European countries "are not with us, for the moment."

France was especially attached to the use of the 'château' naming system "which is specific to us in winemaking and much less so for other countries."

Earlier this month, winemakers in Bordeaux, one of the top French regions, accused the Commission of sacrificing the naming issue for other concerns.

In France, the mention of 'château' on the label means that the bottle of wine contains only grapes grown on that property.

US producers asked to be able to use the name in 2010 for wines made by one or more producers using grapes grown on their land or from vines that they have traditionally tended.

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Cold snap ‘could slash French wine harvest by 30 percent’

A rare cold snap that froze vineyards across much of France this month could see harvest yields drop by around a third this year, France's national agriculture observatory said on Thursday.

Cold snap 'could slash French wine harvest by 30 percent'
A winemaker checks whether there is life in the buds of his vineyard in Le Landreau, near Nantes in western France, on April 12th, following several nights of frost. Photo: Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS / AFP

Winemakers were forced to light fires and candles among their vines as nighttime temperatures plunged after weeks of unseasonably warm weather that had spurred early budding.

Scores of vulnerable fruit and vegetable orchards were also hit in what Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie called “probably the greatest agricultural catastrophe of the beginning of the 21st century.”

IN PICTURES: French vineyards ablaze in bid to ward off frosts

The government has promised more than €1 billion in aid for destroyed grapes and other crops.

Based on reported losses so far, the damage could result in up to 15 million fewer hectolitres of wine, a drop of 28 to 30 percent from the average yields over the past five years, the FranceAgriMer agency said.

That would represent €1.5 to €2 billion of lost revenue for the sector, Ygor Gibelind, head of the agency’s wine division, said by videoconference.

It would also roughly coincide with the tally from France’s FNSEA agriculture union.

Prime Minister Jean Castex vowed during a visit to damaged fields in southern France last Saturday that the emergency aid would be made available in the coming days to help farmers cope with the “exceptional situation.”

READ ALSO: ‘We’ve lost at least 70,000 bottles’ – French winemakers count the cost of late frosts